As fun as its name implies
The Mayans are relevant once again, and for reasons other than spurious predictions of Armageddon by weird people! Weird people who equate a calendar ending with the world at large ending too. God knows how they deal with advent calendars, maybe they just leave the last chocolate? But that’s usually the best one! If you too have any of your own #MayanCultProblems, be sure to send them in!
Mayan Death Robots takes an aspect of Mayan culture that’s perhaps somewhat overlooked. The Death Robot aspect. Each playable character is a Mayan God that, happily, is also a Death Robot. In terms of back story, well, there is certainly some. I guess I better summarize it for those of you interested in the plot of a game called Mayan Death Robots. All one of you.
It all takes place in a bloodthirsty TV show in which robots fight one another and, uh… There are Mayans?
You are now up to date with all the relevant lore, let’s get into the actual gameplay.
Each robot has their own side of each level, containing their core (which the robot must protect at all costs, as failing to do so will result in a game loss) and several tiny Maya minions. If one robot enters the other’s side, these minions will attack mercilessly until you either a) Leave, or b) Die. Death of your robot isn’t an automatic loss, but does mean you have to skip a turn while you’re flown back in. Aboard a flying saucer. Mhm.
The descriptions I’ve heard bandied about most in relation to this game basically equate to “Simultaneous Worms,” by which I mean the turn-based strategy, layout and destructive possibilities of Worms, but with each player carrying out their actions at the same time.
It’s an interesting concept, and for the most part it works pretty well. Whereas in Worms the tension comes from finishing a move before the timer ticks down, here there’s an interesting bit of pre-empting your opponent. If it looks like they’re trying to directly attack your core, try and fortify its defenses by building more blocks. If it looks like they’re taking a more defensive approach themselves, shoot them in the face. Or, if you’re like me and have very little ability and even less patience, just try to obliterate anything and everything and hope for the best.
One of my biggest worries was that by removing separate turns you’d diminish any kind of strategic element, but that certainly is not the case here. There’s a nice array of characters to choose from, some of which pack more of a punch, some of which are slightly more defensive, all of which have a unique design.
There’s no real barrier to gameplay here, no massive learning curve to put you off. You’re put into an arena, you see your opponent, you see the core that your opponent is defending, and your bloodlust rises uncontrollably as you ceaseless try to explode that core. Even lumber-headed, lumber-brained, lumber-loving lumbering lummoxes like me can get behind that sort of simplicity. Still, herein lies my issue with the game.
There’s a lot to be said for pure simplicity in game design – reducing everything down so that what’s left is fun and easy to pick up. I think that philosophy’s gone a bit too far here. What we’ve got with Mayan Death Robots is good, even great when you’re looking to hop in for a few games, but honestly there’s not enough depth there to sustain investment.
I’m looking at my description of the gameplay as I type, because I’m good at multitasking like that, and I’m realizing not only how sparse that description is, but also how near exhaustive it is. You attack the opponents core or, if there’s a strategic advantage to doing so, the opponent. There’s a set of four moves in each turn, outside of bonus moves that can be accrued as the game progresses. It means what’s left is a game that’s easy to learn and not entirely difficult to master, just by virtue of a lack of gameplay possibilities.
As far as criticism goes, though, that’s a fairly inconsequential one. The simplicity of Mayan Death Robots is an explicit design choice. Some will love it, others may hate it, most will probably be fairly nonplussed by it. The point is, I had pretty high expectations for how fun a game called Mayan Death Robots would be and, by and large, those expectations were met.
There’s a great level of attention to detail exhibited throughout, too. The running theme of reality TV show is adhered to wonderfully, with scrolling 24 hour news tickers, the fast-forwarding scan lines when skipping a cutscene and a nice subtle zoom in to the television screen before each match starts. They’re all little details and they didn’t necessarily need to be there, but the fact they are is delightful.
Overall, it’s a simple game that’s great for jumping in and out of every once in a while. If that sounds like your cup of tea, you really can’t go wrong with Mayan Death Robots. Just bear in mind there’s no online multiplayer, just a local co-op versus mode.
Oh, and I love the name. You’ll probably have guessed this from the fact that I’ve repeated it about seven-hundred times throughout the course of this review.